Fargo father alleges organization charged with taking care of his son led to severe weight loss, malnutrition
FARGO — Disturbing new allegations are coming to light from a Fargo father.
Topher Williams says his son, Jake Williams, while living in a group home for those with health and developmental disabilities, suffered from malnutrition, dehydration and severe weight loss under the care of Catholic Health Initiatives' Friendship Inc.
20-year-old Jake Williams was born with a wide variety of health issues and has been living in a group home under CHI Friendship Inc. for the last 10 years.
Since May, Jake Williams has been in and out of the hospital a dozen times. His father says Friendship Inc. treated his son and the family well, but when the coronavirus pandemic hit in March, things changed.
"For understandable reasons, we weren't allowed to go into the house and we noticed throughout Skype conversations that he was losing weight," Williams said.
Seeing his son's health decline, in June, he and his family begged to get Jake Williams to the hospital, but Williams said that care givers refused.
"He doesn't feel pain like we do, our '10', is his 'three,' so we have pictures (showing) his left leg was twice as big as his right leg," Williams explained. "How do you not notice that and not bring him in?"
Caregivers finally agreed to a hospital visit, and his family was allowed to see him for the first time in months.
"He looked gaunt, he was incredibly bony, his spine was stick out almost like a stegosaurus," Williams said.
Jake Williams went from 80 lbs. to 63 lbs., a big drop for a person of that size.
All the explanation Williams received about the condition of his son was that "sometimes he doesn't like to eat."
Board chairwoman of the Catholic Health Initiatives Kathy Hogan has 40-plus years of experience in human services. While she isn't aware of this particular case, she says decisions on this level are up to individual teams at different locations and that Topher Williams was supposed to be included in the conversation.
"I was a little confused by a father saying, 'I don't understand that.' He should have been a member of that team," Hogan said.
After several hospital visits, Jake Williams now has a feeding tube, and has gained 6 lbs. Now Williams says Friendship Inc. won't take his son back.
"They kept coming up with reasons why they couldn't take him back, and someone brought up in a meeting that all the reasons they're giving is why your facility exists," Williams said.
Williams has filed a complaint with the state and with the Protection and Advocacy Project, an organization helping to represent those with disabilities.
Now, Topher is looking for a new home for Jake. Multiple people have reached out to WDAY, stating they've experienced similar situations.
Williams hopes no other family has to go through anything similar.
"I just don't want this to happen to any other kid, because I'm sure it's happened before and if people don't speak up, it's going to happen again," Williams said.
The Protection and Advocacy Project said they can't confirm or deny if there's an active investigation, and CHI's Friendship Inc. did not respond to WDAY's request for a comment to this story.
Hogan did say that if there is a formal abuse or neglect complaint, the board will review it.